Randolph, NJ -- Surrounded by a cheering crowd, warm weather, and a band playing “Pomp and Circumstance”, the Randolph High School graduating class of 2017 finished off their high school career on Wednesday. ( SEE Photo Slide Show at end of Story )

The sight of the blue robes and the signature graduation caps stirred excitement and tears amongst the family and friends sitting in the stands. After all, the graduation ceremony marked the end of thirteen years of hard work, maturity, and fun memories to last a lifetime.

“This is certainly an evening to sit back and enjoy the moment as it has taken some eighteen years to get to this point, and you deserve some time to reflect on your journey,” said Deborah Iosso, the principal of Randolph High School.

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“Be kind, and allow your heart to forgive. Let your eyes see only the best, and let your hands be used to help others.”

Student speakers included Student Council President Molly O’Meara, Valedictorian Claire Zou, Salutatorian Jessica Freund, and Class President Michael Godt.

O’Meara spoke first and reflected on the past four years, stating, “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.  Together we have grown throughout high school and are all completely different people now than the freshmen we once were.”

O’Meara encouraged her peers to make the most of the next four years, stating, “Try new things, take chances, have fun, but stay focused and continue to grow.”

Fruend followed that up with similar sentiments, while also commenting on how fast the time went by.

“I know that I am not alone in my amazement that we are already here today wearing our caps and gowns, and graduating from Randolph High School. In fact, it didn’t really hit me that our time at RHS was over until I sat down to write this speech.” said Freund, disbelief written over her face.

Zou used her time on the podium to share what she thought were the three most important life lessons she learned in high school.

“Please don’t expect these to be profound or mind-blowing, because my GPA doesn’t translate to life experience, said Zou.  “Instead, from one eighteen year old to another, I hope these resonate with you too.”

Zou went on to discuss her lessons learned, including, “Surround yourself with people who make you happy”… “Life never goes as planned, but it will turn out OK”… and “Strive to be the best person.”

While graduation is certainly a bittersweet moment for some, Michael Godt brought humor to an event full of final goodbyes.

“Thanks for your yearly support; actually, thanks to no one else deciding to run for class president,” said Godt.  “I’ve been given the honor to speak here today, me, Michael Godt. The same guy you voted for class clown,” he said, raising laughter from the crowd. “While that doesn’t sound like an ideal situation, together, we, the class of 2017, have successfully made our mark on Randolph High School.”

Graduation doesn’t just affect students and family, however. Teachers also must say goodbye to the students that they have formed friendships and bonds with. Michael Pignaloso, a math teacher known as “Mr. P,” was voted to be the senior speaker, offering words of advice and reflection for the seniors.

“All in all you have spent 320,400 minutes here, in this building. That’s about 18,000,144 seconds,” said Pignaloso, “The point is, not all of those minutes were great, and not all of those minutes were horrible. But all that time was a chance you had to do something. I hope you took advantage of that chance and made memories.”

Some advice from Pignaloso included a short list of “Do and Don’t” items which filled the seats with laughter, until Pignaloso ended his talk with heartfelt words.

“It is my sincere hope and prayer that I have been able to encourage you or speak into your life during these past four years.  If there is one thing you can take away from time with me, it is that you should always do your best to treat everyone you meet with respect and love.”

The stands were packed with loving parents, siblings, and friends. One parent, Inesa Shkolnik, said, “I feel very proud and happy that my son is graduating today, and that he grew up to be such a good person.”

She also had some advice for the graduating seniors. “Don’t be afraid of the future! Take everything that comes your way and make it a positive experience.”

As the sun was starting to set over the forest near John Bauer Memorial Field, the graduating class moved the tassels on their cap from the right to left, and followed that up with the traditional “Hat toss”, signifying that they were no longer seniors, but Randolph High School Alumni. Slideshow:

Editor's Note: Cindy Gao and Arina Arshinova are freshman at Randolph High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Randolph.